The Reminiscence of the Wrightson Family

 by George David Wrightson

Written 1903

Scorn not the slightest word or deed,

Nor deem it void of power,

There's fruit in each wind-wafted seed,

Waiting it's natal hour.


No act falls fruitless; none can tell

How vast it's power may be;

Nor what results enfolded,

 dwell within it silently.


    In writing my early recollections of the Wrightson family forthwith tell all that I can to memory, what I was told by my Father and Mother, and what I can remember myself.

    I was informed by my Father that my Grandfather George Wrightson and his elder brother was left Orphans when very young in Lancaster, and they left Lancaster on foot traveling and seeking work, in time they made there way into Northumberland my Grandfather then, at the age of 12 years obtained work in a villagers Wheelwrights shop, and when he was 14 years old he apprenticed himself to the master for seven year in the village of Biggs-Maine; afterwards he commenced a shop of his own, and commenced contracting in the building line, and contracted making corves for coal pits for filling coal into : there was no slide in those days and I can remember having seen the same myself.

    My Father informed me that the first contract that George Stephenson took was to pull down a pit engine and remove it to another pit, and Grandfather took the contract to pull the engine-house down and remove it to the same place as the engine.

    My Grandfather and George Stephenson where workmen together and Mr. Stephenson told Grandfather that at any time that he wanted his assistance just to speak to him and he would do what he could do for him.

    My Grandfather did not marry until middle age then he married a Widow from Westmere of the name of Margaret Donkin - after marriage they settled down at Longbenton a Village about 3 miles from Newcastle-upon-Tyne where he carried on Wheel-wrighting and contracting, at that time all timber was sawn on pits by hand labour, Grandfather had pits in his large Yard and his men sawed their own timber, I remember there was a splendid garden at the back of those pits and I remember there was some apples grew there.

    My Uncle William Wrightson served his apprentice with my Grandfather and after my uncle William married a young lady of the name of Mary Ross my Grandfather and Mother and family lived in or kept the Hotel Ship Inn in Longbenton where my Father was born and married from.After Grandfathers and Grandmothers death which took place about 1841 my Uncle William carried on the wheel-wrighting business until about 1850
when he moved to Haddericks Mill Hotel in Gosford; in 1852 he moved to Elswick Road he kept a new Hotel there, a few years after he moved to Newcastle to keep the Northumberland Hotel. It being a very large hotel, which took a great deal of upkeep ruined him: then he kept a gentlemen's boarding house. He had one son. George Wrightson a splendid scholar who at the age of 19 years was giving lectures on chemistry.
He caught cold after giving lectures which was his death. Soon after, my Aunt Ann died, she was a business Women and native of London, so the poor old man was left alone and ruined. So knowing some of the Managers at William Armstrongs (here is a connection with the Engineer Thomas Wrightson of Head Wrightson) he got employment there at his trade and worked there until his eyes failed. My Father wished him to come out here, but he would not leave the Old Country were he was well known. Soon after my Father received & letter to say he was dead; he and his wife and son were strict Church of England members.

My Aunt Mary Wrightson married James Nichol Shipwright at Hylton near Sunderland. The Nichol Family where a very old family at Hylton, they had been, when I was a boy shipwrights for over 100 years in the same Shipwrights yards at Hylton-Ferry. Well my Uncle James Nichol after serving his apprenticeship to ship-wrighting in the same yard he was made foreman at twenty-one, which he held when he left home. After we left home he took the shipwright yard himself and did well, and built some houses and a shop. My Father received a letter to say that my Uncle had given up shipbuilding and commenced in the grocery business in his shop and was doing well until the great shipbuilding strike took place; then my Uncle being of a general kind hearted disposition gave all workmen credit; they soon eat him out of  house and home and ruined him; he had a family of three daughters and three sons; it is many years since I received any letters from them.

    My Uncle David Donkin, that I mentioned before, being a step-brother, was & grand man ,a true Englishman and a neighbour of ours nearly my  life. My Uncle David would tell us of his early life. When he was at the age of 8 years engaged at Wallsend Colliery on the screens picking out brass and stones from the coal; but he left suddenly one day and got onto a vessel going to Greenland. and was away 2 years the first voyage, when the ship came back to London discharged the cargo then set sail again and came around to the mouth of the Tyne for orders - on  railways in those days - and said if he could swim he would have jumped over board to go and see his mother.

    The next voyage he was away three years having been caught in the ice; he followed the seafaring life until 1847; he was wrecked several times; he was mate of a vessel trading to America for years. I was talking to a neighbour in Newcastle, New South Wales who served his time at sea under my Uncle. This neighbour, Mr Turpy told me when Uncle was on night watch he would open the Galley door and put the boys in there to keep them warm and tell them to go to sleep and he would watch as they had a hard Skipper; my Uncle was always fond of Children. Before leaving he married Elizabeth Sheilds a servant of my  Grandfather's, and they were well mated for she was a good hard working women, they had one son William who died when about 1 year old; after a few years they took an infant a nephew of my aunts as their own, they raised him to 14 years of age then sent him to learn a trade, printing, after he was 16 years of age he died. My Uncle and Aunt died members of the primitive Methodist Church. Before my Uncles death he was working in Haggey's Timber Yard on the Tyne.

    My Mother, Mary Charlton was born in Jamaca in the West Indies in the year 1817. Her father was a corporal in the English Regiment 61st Grenadiers. Her Father and Mother dying of fever when she was about 7 months old. A Gengtlemen brought  my Mother and her sister Jane, who was 14 years, to England; and the first to take hold of  my Mother and her Sister when they arrive in the Village of Longbenton, Northumberland was my Grand Mother, Margaret Wrightson, so when my Mother was old enough she went to service at the Rectory, Longbenton, and from there she married my Father George Wrightson in the year 1838.

    My Father was born August 17th 1815 at Longbenton, Northumberland. He received his education in Newcastle at an Academy in Percy Street. At 14 years of age - at that time and my time too you must go into a trade at fourteen years, do seven years at it , or you were not considered a Mechanic - his Father had to give forty pounds and seven years without pay to learn the trade of an engraver which he did and served the seven years but when he had finished his trade, which had always been done by hand, was now done by machinery - so my Grandfather and my Father looked for something else to do. My Father traveled to Manchester to seek work at his trade and could not get any work, so he had to foot it back and short of money; no railways in those days, only stage coaches. On the way back he stopped one night at a wayside Hotel where the stage coach changed horses. Father went to bed but in the night the stage coach came and a passenger, the passenger required a bed, the bed Father was sleeping in was a double bed so the passenger was put to sleep in the same bed with Father; Father said he had paid for his lodgings the night before with the intention of getting on the road home early in the morning, but when Father awoke he found around his head and shoulders covered with sovereigns so he did not like to leave for fear any were missing. So he awoke this passenger who proved to be a sea captain stage coaching from his port of arrival to Newcastle to the ???????? with this money; he had put this bag of sovereigns under his pillow and the string had come undone. The captain inquired where he was going home, so the Captain said, I am going to Newcastle in the Stage Coach come with me. Father said, "I have not sufficient money left for the Stage Coach, I will have to walk it". "Nonesense", he said "I will pay your fare", so he enquired his Father's name. "Oh" he said "I know your Father and Mother well". So Father got back to Longbenton.

    As Mr. George Stephenson had said , if Grandfather wanted anything at anytime just to ask him and he would do what he he could for him; so Grandfather went to Mr. George Stephenson about Father's trade failing. So Mr. George Stephenson put my Father on the 'Westmoor' (Puffing Billy) locomotive as Fireman (1837).

    He worked there a few months when Mr. George Stephenson took him and put him firing a locomotive on the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway in 1837. In 1838 he married my Mother, Mary Charlton at Longbenton Church. They started house keeping at Dunston, where I was born at Rabbits Bank, Gateshead; my brother William was born at Redheugh Station; he was killed on the railway at 5 years of age. At that time my Father went to fire on the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway, young men had to do so long on the footplate while serving their time to be Engineers. Father says there were some lazy ones among them., Gentlemen's sons who had never soiled their hands before. In those days a fireman had to light up and clean his own Engine. My Father worked on the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway 17 years and 3 months, his wages being 7 shillings per day, he had an offer to go to Italy at 14 shillings per day but my Mother would not go that was in 1852. 

    My Father and Mother, my Brother and Sister and my self left our home at Redheugh, Gateshead June 15th 1854 for Liverpool to join the ship Oracle. We sailed June 24th 1854, anf landed in Melbourne Oct 8th 1854. The fares between Melbourne and Sydney 4 10/- for Cabin; fares between Sydney - Newcastle 10 shillings and 6 pence for cabin.

    My Father being a handy man, and no Engine driving to do; he did a little carpentry and inspection of sleepers for a contract; untill the Navy Ships came out in 1855. He engaged with Messrs Wright and Rundle to put their ballast engine together and drive the Engine at 14/- a day and overtime. Father and a man named Clark took the Engine out of the ship, put it into punts and took them up the channel to lower Hexham and landed it on a Jetty especially erected by George Wrightson and Mr. John Clark. The contracters Messrs Wright and Rundle gave Mr. Cameron 5 to fill the boiler with fresh water. The water was brought in boats from a well at Tomage. Steam was got up and the locomotive was made to run on a short piece of line by Mr. Simon Kemp with Driver George Wrightson standing by him. When they were satisfied that all was right the contracters and guests retired to George Wrightson's tent to partake in refreshments, and a little speaking was done. The fire was drawn and the water let out of the boiler. A few days after, the Engine was drawn down the line to Sandgate by Mr. Cameron's bullock team ( the reason for drawing the Engine by a bullock team to Sandgate was that the line was not ballasted and could not bear much weight). The reason for taking the Engine to Hexham was on account of the big hill above Waratah. The cutting through this hill was not complete; but the line was laid from Honeysuckle to Waratah. After the Big Hill cutting was complete; it was not as deep as it is now; the locomotive was driven by George Wrightson to Honeysuckle Point. A holiday was given to to contractors employee.

    The Engine was run backwards and forwards to Waratah with as many passengers as could get on the Engine and tender; a short ceromony was gone through and all returned to the Union Inn  kept by Mr. Hewison, where a cold lunch was provided and plenty to drink (free house). At night the Engine was taken back to her old quarters at Sandgate to finish ballasting (Driver Mr. George Wrightson, Fireman George Callow, Cleaner George David Wrightson son of George Wrightson). Mr. George Wrightson drove the first ballast Engine between Honeysuckle Point and Victoria Street, East Maitland prior to opening of the line. The Honeysuckle Point Railway Station is opposite Auckland Stret, Newcastle. The Railway from Honeysuckle Point and East Maitland was opened March 30th 1857; the railway from Honeysuckle Point to Newcastle was opened in 1858

Written by George David Wrightson

son of George Wrightson 1903

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